Easy Learning French

Question words - Easy Learning Grammar French

1 Common question words

  • Listed below are some very common question words. que, quel, qui, quoi and lequel are explained on .
  • combien + verb? how much?, how many?
    combien de + noun? how much?, how many?
Combien coûte cet ordinateur?How much does this computer cost?
C’est combien, ce pantalon?How much are these trousers?
Tu en veux combien? Deux?How many do you want? Two?
Combien de personnes vas-tu inviter?How many people are you going to invite?
  • comment?how?
    Comment va-t-elle?How is she?
    Comment tu t’appelles?What’s your name?
Tippardon and comment are also used to ask someone to repeat something, and are the same as Pardon? in English. quoi can mean the same thing, but is informal, and is the same as What? in English.
  • où?where?
    allez-vous?Where are you going?
    D’où viens-tu?Where are you from?
TipBe careful not to mix up , which means where, and ou (without an accent), which means or.
  • pourquoi?why?
    Pourquoi est-ce qu’il ne vient pas avec nous?Why isn’t he coming with us?
  • quand?when?
    Quand est-ce que tu pars en vacances?When are you going on holiday?
    Depuis quand est-ce que vous le connaissez?How long have you known him?

2 qui?, que? and quoi?

  • In questions, qui, que and quoi are all pronouns. Which of them you choose depends on:
  • whether you are referring to people or to things
  • whether you are referring to the subject or object of the verb (the subject is the person or thing that is carrying out the action described by the verb; the object is the person or thing that ‘receives’ the action)
  • whether the word you use will come after a preposition such as à, de or en
  • qui? and que? have longer forms, as shown in the table below. There is a difference in word order between the longer and shorter forms.
  • qui? is used for talking about people, and means who? or whom? in English. You can use whom? in formal English to refer to the object of verb, though most people use who?. qui? can be used after a preposition.
Who? Whom?Referring to peopleMeaningExamplesMeaning
Subjectqui?
qui est-ce qui?
who?Qui vient?
Qui est-ce qui vient?
Who’s coming?
Objectqui?
qui est-ce que?
who?
whom?
Qui vois-tu?
Qui est-ce que tu vois?
Who/Whom
can you see?
After prepositionsqui?
qui est-ce que?
who?
whom?
De qui est-ce qu’il parle?
Pour qui est ce livre?
À qui avez-vous écrit?
Who’s he talking about?
Who’s this book for?
Who did you write to?, To whom did you write?
Tipque changes to qu’ before a vowel, most words beginning with h, and the French word y.
  • à qui is the usual way of saying whose in questions.
À qui est ce sac?Whose is this bag?
  • For more information on using à to show possession, see à, de and en.
  • que? and quoi? are used for talking about things, and mean what? in English. que? cannot be used after a preposition; you have to use quoi? instead.
What?Referring to peopleMeaningExamplesMeaning
Subjectqu’est-ce qui?what?Qu’est-ce qui se passe?
Qu’est-ce qui t’inquiète?
What’s happening?
What’s worrying you?
Objectqu’est-ce que? que?what?Qu’est-ce que vous faites?
Que faites-vous?
What are you doing?
After prepositionsquoi?what?À quoi penses- tu?
De quoi parlez- vous?
What are you thinking about?
What are you talking about?
TipIt is possible to finish an English sentence with a preposition such as about or of, even though some people think this is not good grammar.
Who did you write to?
What are you talking
about?
It is NEVER possible to end a French sentence with a preposition.

3 quel?, quelle?, quels? and quelles?

  • quel? (meaning who?, which? or what?) can be used with a noun (as an adjective) or can replace a noun (as a pronoun). Compare this with que? (and its longer forms) and quoi?, which also mean what?, but are NEVER used with nouns.
  • quel, quelle, quels and quelles are all forms of the same word. The form that you choose depends on whether you are referring to something that is masculine or feminine, singular or plural.
 MasculineFeminineMeaning
Singularquel?quelle?who?
what?
which?
Pluralquels?quelles?who?
what?
which?
Quel est ton chanteur préféré?Who’s your favourite singer?
Quel vin recommandez-vous?Which wine do you recommend?
Quelle est ta couleur préférée?What’s your favourite colour?
Quelle heure est-il?What time is it?
Quels sont tes chanteurs préférés?Who are your favourite singers?
Vous jouez de quels instruments?What instruments do you play?
Quelles sont tes couleurs préférées?What are your favourite colours?
Quelles chaussures te plaisent le plus?Which shoes do you like best?

4 lequel?, laquelle?, lesquels? and lesquelles?

  • In questions lequel, laquelle, lesquels and lesquelles (meaning which one/ones?) are all forms of the same pronoun, and are used to replace nouns. The form that you choose depends on whether you are referring to something that is masculine or feminine, singular or plural.
 MasculineFeminineMeaning
Singularlequel?laquelle?which?
which one?
Plurallesquels?lesquelles?which?
which ones?
‘J’ai choisi un livre.’ – ‘Lequel?’‘I’ve chosen a book.’ – ‘Which one?’
Laquelle de ces valises est à Bruno?Which of these cases is Bruno’s?
‘Tu te souviens de mes amis?’ – ‘Lesquels?’‘Do you remember my friends?’ – ‘Which ones?’
Lesquelles de vos sœurs sont mariées?Which of your sisters are married?

5 n’est-ce pas? and non?

  • English speakers often use an expression like isn’t it?, don’t they?, weren’t we? or will you? tagged on to the end of a sentence to turn it into a question. French uses n’est-ce pas? instead. This useful little phrase never changes, so is very easy to use. You use it in questions when you expect the person you are talking to to agree with you.
Il fait chaud, n’est-ce pas?It’s warm, isn’t it?
Tu parles français, n’est-ce pas?You speak French, don’t you?
Vous n’oublierez pas, n’est-ce pas?You won’t forget, will you?
  • It is very common to use non (meaning no) in the same way in spoken French. hein? means the same as eh? in English, and is only used in very informal conversations.
Il fait chaud, non?It’s warm, isn’t it?
Il fait chaud, hein?It’s warm, eh?
Key points
  • In questions qui? means who?; que? and quoi? mean what?
  • qui est-ce qui? (subject) and qui est-ce que? (object) are longer forms of qui? Both mean who? The word order is different from qui.
  • qu’est-ce qui? (subject) and qu’est-ce que? (object) are longer forms of que? Both mean what? The word order is different from que.
  • qui? (for people) and quoi? (for things) can be used after prepositions.
  • quel? is both an adjective and a pronoun. It means who?, what? or which? in questions, and is used with a noun or replaces a noun.
  • lequel? is a pronoun; it means which? or which one? in questions.
  • n’est-ce pas? or non? can be tagged on to the end of sentences to turn them into questions.
Grammar Extra!All the questions in the previous section are the actual words that someone uses when they are asking a question, and so they all end with a question mark. These are called direct questions. When you are telling someone else about a question that is being asked, you use an indirect question. Indirect questions never end with a question mark, and they are always introduced by a verb such as to ask, to tell, to wonder, to know and so on.
  • He asked me what the time was. (His actual question was What is the time?)
  • Tell me which way to go. (Your actual question was Which way do I go?)
Word order in indirect questions is generally the same as in English: question word + subject + verb.
Dites-moi quel (question word) autobus (subject) va (verb) à la gare.Tell me which bus goes to the station.
Il m’a demandé combien d’argent j’avais.He asked me how much money I had.
Je me demande s’il viendra ou pas.I wonder if he’ll come or not.
When the subject of the question is a noun and NOT a pronoun like je or il, the subject and verb that come after the question word are often swapped round.
Je me demande où (question word) sont (verb) mes clés (subject).I wonder where my keys are.
Demande-lui qui est venu.Ask him who came.

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